Nicola Mason: The new term has begun, and 369 McMicken Hall once again resounds with the ticking of keyboards, the shir of sheets of paper, the squeal of the ancient laser printer, and talk of books read, exams taken, conferences attended. In other words, the staff has returned. We will start training a new group of grad-student volunteers next week, and they will contribute to the hurly-burly-hurry-scurry of an office running at full tilt toward one deadline after another.
Though the place is quiet in the summer, however, a great deal of work is done over those months by the amazingly dedicated year-round readers that help us catch up on all the submissions we received during the spring. These good people make my job both easier and a lot more interesting. I thoroughly enjoy reading their thoughtful comments on the poems, stories, and essays that come CR’s way, and I admire both their zeal and their commitment to the serious assessment of said pieces.
To give our blog readers an idea of what goes into a reader’s report on a given submission, I will share below some random examples. (Little known fact: Our volunteers often comment on each and every poem submitted.)
—Some nice moments, and the cadence of the lines is nice. It fizzles at points, but the conceit is kind of fun.
—Some fun rhythmic stuff going on, and some interesting images, but it’s just not there.
—Most of these poems are of good quality. They wear their influence very visibly on their sleeve—the late Adrienne Rich. There are quite a few worthy ones to pick from here. Birds and bird imagery seem important to this poet.
—An enjoyable poem about imagination, and has some cool similes and subtle sounds.
—Deals with the liminal in an interesting way and does a good job showing.
—Reflects with dissatisfaction upon speaker’s childhood with some fairly beautiful lines, but it doesn’t seem to do much else.
—The poem seemed over before it began, and the details didn’t help the poem in terms of direction.
—I really love the pacing of this narrative, and the characters, and the unlikeliness of the ending. The only downside, for me, is that it sort of reads like a chapter in a novel; i.e., I’m not sure it necessarily stands as a story on its own.
—Creepy, spare, and simply narrated. Nicely paced. Overall, I really liked this one.
—Nice narrative essay about spiritual journey. The intro is not particularly interesting, but I was hooked by part I. Sometimes the philosophizing breaks up the flow of the piece, so that could be tightened, but it was pretty much fascinating all the way through.
—There is some awesome weirdness in the middle that makes this one stick out, even though the speaker creeps out of the poem to say things near the end in a way that breaks the spell.
—This essay is self-conscious without being sarcastic or precious, and I think it artfully chronicles the confusion and emotional upheaval of great loss. Thoughtful use of details, and a formidable ending.
—This piece has several things to recommend it: masterful use of tone, some fresh language choices, a compelling opening, and a definite momentum that carries the reader through the end. However, the irony is sometimes so awkwardly handled that it makes this piece hard to endorse. Also the characterization of secondary characters seems slight, and the narrator seems, at times, not just preoccupied but woefully dense (which undermines the story’s credibility somewhat).